Pollsters and the news media routinely use sentiment analysis technology. The Wall Street Journal's Sentiment Tracker is an infographic that shares public opinion about certain topics as expressed on Facebook and Twitter, using sentiment analysis software-as-a-service from NetBase Solutions. In this piece appearing in March, Sentiment Tracker looked at 28,000 Twitter and Facebook comments about Tim Tebow joining the New York Jets.
The Journal has been careful not to present Sentiment Tracker as a scientific public opinion poll, as Twitter and Facebook users are younger and have higher incomes than the population at large. "It's very important for us to always make a distinction as to what this actually tells the reader, and not present it as something more than it is," said deputy editor Ryan Sager, speaking at the Sentiment Analysis Symposium in May.
The Journal's editors have talked about weightier uses of sentiment analysis, such as a Candidate Tracker for the current election season. But here, too, they'd have to be clear about the biases of social media. "Ron Paul has always kind of had a very high and very positive Internet buzz because he's Ron Paul, and that's where his audience is," Sager noted.